Revealed: The best and worst countries in the world to grow old

Britain came 11th in the Global AgeWatch Index of 96 countries

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The Independent Online

Norway is the best country in the world to grow old in, according to a global index ranking the quality of life for the elderly.

The Scandinavian country topped the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index of 96 nations, followed closely by Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and Germany.

Norway was praised for the Government’s oil-funded pension scheme, over-60s employment and political representation with the National Council for Senior Citizens.

It also has a good health system funded by high taxation.

With the exception of Japan, the top 10 countries were all in Western Europe, North America and Australasia, with Afghanistan, Mozambique and the Occupied Palestinian Territories coming bottom.

The UK came in at number 11, scoring well on income security and having an “enabling environment” but health care was criticised.

“The positive result for income is not matched in health,” the report said.

“The need to re-focus health and care systems to better meet the requirements of an ageing population has been recognised but the process of transformation is likely to take some time and has only just begun.”

web-nhs-elderly-getty.jpgMore than 23 per cent of the British population is currently 60 or over, according to the index, which predicted the figure to rise to 28 per cent by 2030 and almost a third by 2050.

The report predicts that by that time, 21 per cent of the global population – 2.02 billion people - will be over 60.

It called on more countries to join those offering non-contributory “social pensions” for older people in poverty, which do not rely on wages or tax payments.

Mexico (ranked 30) and Peru (42) are among the countries offering the benefit and China (48) introduced a rural social pension in 2009.

Toby Porter, the chief executive of HelpAge International, said contributory pensions like Britain’s are not always enough.

“Social pensions are a game changer for older people,” he added. “Rising numbers of older people mean governments need to radically re-think their approach to later life”.

An elderlywidow being taught how to write in India, ranked 69th

All regions of the world are seeing ageing populations, although in many low-income countries the proportion of over-60s is still less than 10 per cent.

The Global AgeWatch Index was released on Wednesday to mark the United Nations International Day of Older Persons.

Professor Asghar Zaidi, who worked on the report with the Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of Southampton, said he hoped politicians would use its findings. 

“The work underlying the Index is already helping many individual governments to improve the available data and ensure that it leads to better policy decisions,” he said.

The Age Demands Action campaign, part of HelpAge International, aims to create a better quality of live for older people and is calling for a United Nations convention on older peoples' rights.

The top 10 countries for over-60s

1. Norway

Switzerland came in third

2. Sweden
3. Switzerland
4. Canada
5. Germany
6. Netherlands
7. Iceland
8. United States
9. Japan
10. New Zealand

The worst 10 countries for over-60s

87. Iraq
88. Zambia

Afghanistan came last

89. Uganda
90. Jordan
91. Pakistan
92. Tanzania
93. Malawi
94. West Bank and Gaza
95. Mozambique
96. Afghanistan